THE threat posed by Mas Selamat Kastari, leader of the Singapore Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terrorist network, remains 'real and significant,' even after he has been recaptured and is in Singapore custody, said Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng on Monday.

Even while he was on the run after bolting from detention at the Whitley Road centre on Feb 27, 2008, the fugitive was determined to retaliate and planned attacks against Singapore , after an earlier plot was thwarted, Mr Wong told Parliament.

'Having been trained in Afghanistan, he has the operational competencies to stage a terrorist attack if given time and opportunity. His determination to do so remains unchanged. This is why Mas Selamat has to be held in preventive detention,' said Mr Wong, replying to questions from MPs after he updated the House on how the terrorist leader planned and made his escape.

Is the threat lower now and is Singapore safer now that he is back in detention, asked MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, Mr Christopher Douza .

Replying, Mr Wong said: 'Holding Mas Selamat in preventive detention means that there is just one threat less but there are others out there in the region.'

He cited the situation in Indonesia where despite the killing of major terrorist figures like Azahari Husin and Noordin Top, the terrorist activities there have not declined.

'The ongoing counter-terrorism operations in Indonesia bears this out. Singapore's security cannot be divorced from the security situation in our region and beyond. We are an open economy and society. The reality is that the current terrorist threat has proven to be a resilient one.

'Terrorist elements have adapted and evolved...even as the security action by the states are stepped up against them. So the threat remains real and significant.'

Asked by Mr Hri Kumar Nair, MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, if Mas Selamat had outside help in his jailbreak, Mr Wong said he was unable to comment as investigations into this are still ongoing.

To opposition member Low Thia Khiang's question on the lessons learnt from the escape, Mr Wong said security at the Whitley Road Detention Centre had been beefed up in the last two years following the Committee of Inquiry's recommendations, and the ISD has looked into various possibilities of how any detainee, not just Mas Selamat, could escape from the WRDC.

'Right now besides the tighter procedural measures that were immediately implemented after the escape, significant physical security works were also carried out to address the key infrastructural weaknesses that directly contributed to the escape,' added Mr Wong.

Mas Selamat poses 'real threat'